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How IoT Data Can Transform Fleet Management Systems

Fleet management is undergoing a revolutionary change in the way that data is collected and used to ensure both managers and drivers are more knowledgeable and safe on the roads.  At the center of these changes is Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which has enabled the creation of vast data collection points and integrated them into an intelligent, flexible data gathering network.  In this article, we will go over some of the most important impacts that IoT technology has had once applied as a fleet management system.  Specifically, we’ll examine what kinds of data IoT networks can gather for fleet managers, and explore some of the impact that an IoT fleet monitoring system has on operations and efficiency.  IoT has made fleet operations safer, more efficient, and cost effective over both the short and long-term.  As IoT technologies are deployed not just as a fleet solution, but also on public roadways and personal vehicles, this technology will have the potential to completely change how we view and utilize our transportation networks.

How Does IoT Work for Fleets?

The “Internet of Things” is the creation of interconnectedness between discrete objects in today’s digital age. Objects that were previously not connected to the internet can now be transformed into data collection points through integration with IoT sensors. Sensors can be placed on nearly any object imaginable. Some products are now being built with sensors internally designed with the specific intention of integrating them into IoT networks. The applications of IoT technologies are nearly limitless, and as the technology continues to develop this will only further expand into unexplored areas.

However, as a fleet solution, IoT can be utilized to perform very specific and important functions. Typically, sensor nodes can be attached to nearly anything in a fleet that operations managers want to keep track of. This includes vehicles, equipment, fleet headquarters, or even points along specific routes. These sensors then collect data that is transmitted, in real-time, to a cloud server. Once in the cloud, the data is sent to a data dashboard, i.e., an application on a mobile or desktop device, that displays the relevant data for your IoT network.

Data dashboards are an integral part of IoT functionality. They serve as the hub for the collected data from your sensor nodes. This information can then be displayed in ways that can be easily assessed and acted upon. Information collected from your sensors can be displayed as either graphs, gauges, or even raw numerical data. Not only is the way your data displayed customizable, but which data you want displayed can also be configured. You can position only critical information on your dashboard, or broad information that can quickly give you an idea of the health of your network. You can then select specific data sets on your dashboard and dive deeper into them to gain greater insight into specific areas. This setup gives immense control to your management team, by parsing through large amounts of data to present salient data points, and then allowing you the flexibility to access the complete amount of information collected.

As a fleet management system, IoT sensors and the data that accompanies them can be applied in several different ways. In the subsequent sections, we will examine how IoT data can be used to generate actionable insights about road weather conditions and traffic, and vehicle health. The direct results of utilizing an IoT enabled fleet management system are safer operations for your drivers, and more efficient operations for your overall fleet.  Additionally, over the long term, IoT fleet solutions can be used to design and implement improvements to asset deployment and routing, as well as utilized as a benchmark for maintenance scheduling and vehicle overhaul.

Road Conditions

Inclement weather and rapidly changing road conditions are two of the biggest problems for fleet managers.  No matter the location of the operation, weather and road conditions can change in an instant.  Weather forecasting technology today is great for providing a rough idea of what the weather will be like over a period of time, however it fails to account for local and hyper-local weather conditions.  For fleet managers that rely on accurate weather forecasting to allocate and deploy vehicles, having up-to-date weather information is critical to ongoing operations.

In addition to the problems that weather can cause, having out-of-date traffic information is detrimental to proper fleet deployment. Accurate delivery times can quickly erode when unforeseen accidents or construction creates delays. Furthermore, once information is transmitted to fleet management, it takes more time to disseminate information to vehicles on the road, and craft alternate routes to maintain delivery or deployment.

As is evidenced by these issues, both weather and traffic can have a significant impact on road conditions and how fleet operations adapt to them. Applying IoT data to these problems, in the form of a comprehensive fleet management system, can significantly impact how quickly fleet managers can assess issues affecting road conditions and craft and deploy solutions.

For impacts on road conditions related to changes in weather, IoT data can be used in a variety of ways. IoT sensors can be configured to collect a myriad of road weather data, including air and road temperatures, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity.  Additionally, by attaching sensors to the front windshield, your fleet monitoring system can detect the speed with which wiper blades are moving, and calculate the presence and rate of precipitation. All this data is transmitted in real-time, cloud based software, and then filtered down and pushed to a data dashboard on a mobile or desktop device.

As mentioned, IoT sensors can be placed on vehicles within fleets. This means your data collection network can be as spread out as your fleet. And because your network is constantly mobile, your information is up-to-date with the exact location of your vehicles.  IoT road-weather data is truly hyper-local and in real-time, providing your fleet management system the most comprehensive view of weather conditions across their network of vehicles. This gives fleet managers the ability to quickly react to changing weather conditions as they occur, allowing them to deploy more vehicles or redeploy vehicles already on the road. The speed with which IoT data is pushed to fleet managers also allows them to anticipate delays or problems in their supply chain or delivery of services, ultimately giving them more power over how to allocate manpower and resources.

The application of an IoT fleet monitoring system to traffic patterns or construction is like road-weather data.  In addition to gathering and transmitting local weather conditions, IoT sensors can also gather data about vehicle speed, location, and trajectory. From this data, your fleet solution will show precisely where their vehicles are at all times and how quickly they are traveling. Slowing, resulting from accidents or construction, can be quickly seen and adapted to by determining alternate delivery routes or redeploying other vehicles.  This can help avoid the messy entanglement of multiple fleet resources in avoidable situations.

Having precise geolocation information for your vehicles and equipment is a powerful fleet solution for managers and operational staff.  For fleets that specialize in delivery services, this data can be used to determine the most accurate delivery times available. Having accurate speed and geographic location of your vehicles, in conjunction with the location of the delivery, can be used to monitor and maintain delivery schedules in real-time. Delays or changes in delivery times can quickly be communicated to customers. An IoT fleet management system gives unprecedented control over the deployment and allocation of their resources, empowering managers to be proactive instead of reactive when dealing with operational issues.

Vehicle Health

Although a primary use of IoT data in a fleet management system is generating hyper-local real-time data for road conditions, an important secondary use of a fleet solution is to assist in proper vehicle maintenance. As any fleet manager knows, vehicle maintenance is an area of operations that can have a significant impact on the health of their fleet as well as profit margins. Missed opportunities for preventative maintenance can result in costly repairs down the line. It can also result in operationally critical assets being sidelined when you need them most. In this section, we’ll briefly outline how IoT fleet monitoring can be used to beneficially impact maintenance scheduling.

As a fleet manager, you know roughly when and how often preventative maintenance needs to take place. Oil changes, tune-ups, tire rotations and changes, and vehicle health inspections all need to happen on a regular schedule to be effective in preventing critical equipment failures. In a fleet environment, maintenance schedules are generally quantified by determining how often your vehicles and equipment need maintenance based on miles driven or how many hours or days your assets have been deployed.

IoT fleet solutions are currently the most accurate means of tracking the necessary data to keep your vehicles on a regular maintenance schedule. Because IoT sensors track precisely where your vehicles are in real-time, you can continually collect this data to provide you with accurate mileage counts for every vehicle in your fleet. This saves manpower, by not requiring drivers to estimate how far or how long they have been driving and logging that information at the end of the day. That information can be stored and tracked within your fleet management system, so that you can preemptively create maintenance schedules for specific vehicles. You can assess whether high mileage vehicles are due for service, and prioritize service based on whether an asset is critical for you to keep deployed.

Beyond merely tracking mileage for fleet managers, an IoT fleet monitoring system can be customized to generate alerts when a vehicle needs maintenance.  If you know that a vehicle will require an oil change every 4,000 miles, you can create a customized alert for every vehicle in your fleet. Once a vehicle’s mileage has exceeded the threshold you have set, the fleet monitoring system will push an alert to fleet managers, drivers, or maintenance technicians letting them know that that specific vehicle needs service. Alert thresholds can be customized and set for a variety of different scenarios. This gives fleet managers the ability to not worry that vehicles will miss maintenance because mileage was improperly logged or not logged at all. Accurate maintenance scheduling also allows you to avoid overly frequent maintenance on vehicles due to inaccurate logging or vehicle travel information.

Actionable Insights

An IoT fleet management system is a comprehensive solution to events that commonly impact fleet operations and deployment. An IoT fleet solution collects the data that fleet managers need to properly allocate and deploy resources. The data generated by an IoT fleet monitoring system also keeps your fleet operators safe, by helping them avoid dangerous road and weather conditions. At the same time, IoT data empowers fleet managers by giving them the information they need to proactively address issues as or before they arise.

Utilizing a properly configured fleet management system also gives fleet managers access to an unprecedented amount of actionable insights that they can work from. They can see the health and deployment of their operations in real-time, and more efficiently allocate assets where they need them and when they need them. The data generated by an IoT fleet monitoring system and collected in your data dashboard can also be used by operational analysts to craft targeted process improvements, resulting in greater efficiency and cost effectiveness. Lastly, IoT fleet management systems are one of the most cost effective tools available to gain greater control over their operations. IoT fleet management systems are an inexpensive and impactful tool that can be configured to create safer, more efficient, and more profitable operations for fleets.

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